Eric Reid on 49ers' demonstrations: 'I think we're starting to get through to people'

It's unclear whether the 49ers will continue their demonstrations during the anthem, but Eric Reid said the focus should be on the continuing issues. AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- In the days that followed the San Francisco 49ers' team demonstration in which 30 players knelt with their hands over their hearts and the rest of their teammates and coaches stood directly behind them with one hand on a shoulder and the other over the heart, safety Eric Reid has taken some time to digest how it was received.

Although quick to point out that there's still work to do in what figures to be a long road to fix the racial inequalities that he and Colin Kaepernick initially protested, Reid is encouraged by what he saw.

"I think we're starting to get through to people," Reid said. "There's obviously always a person or people that don't care, don't want to listen. They think what they want to think based off the headlines. I think we're getting through to people.

"We have just got to keep talking, keep talking and then take those conversations and make them into actions, whether that's with the elections coming up for district attorneys or the president when that happens. We have just got to make better decisions as a country to reverse what's happened with the justice system, with the system in general. I know those are vague terms that some people don't really understand, but you've got to understand the history of how the system got to where it is today. We need to make changes to get ourselves out of this hole."

Over the course of the past week, Reid has taken multiple opportunities to chat with media and address specific issues. It's what he has called an attempt to "control the narrative" better than last season.

Last Wednesday, Reid spoke for about 20 minutes and retraced the steps of inequality beginning with the Great Depression through the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts of 1964 and 1965, respectively. He cited notes from friend Clint Smith, a writer, teacher and Ph.D. candidate at Harvard who has focused his research on mass incarceration, the sociology of racism and the history of inequality in the United States.

After Sunday's game, Reid talked about the need for voters to become more familiar with elections on a local level as they determine whom to elect for positions such as district attorney. He voiced concerns about mass incarceration and how the country has "hyper-criminalized" drugs while other countries treat drugs as a health issue.

Reid said he plans to join other players around the league in pushing what is called the Player Activist Platform for Racial Equality and Criminal Justice Reform. That's the player-led objective that sought Commissioner Roger Goodell and other executives in a call to action to learn more about the criminal justice system through a variety of programs and asked the commissioner to consider making November a month the league dedicates to activism.

"This country has monetized punishing people, and it creates a cycle of keeping people in jail," Reid said. "And we need to break that cycle."

As for whether the Niners will continue their demonstrations, there doesn't seem to be a definitive answer. Because the 49ers had already played when most teams did their show of unity a couple weeks ago, the Niners were the last team to have an opportunity to express that for themselves.

After a week of discussion, the 49ers settled on the split between kneeling and standing with everyone together as a team.

"I think the players were happy with it," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I think what was different for us was we never got our opportunity after what happened the week before. So I think everyone wanted the opportunity to show the unity and show that we were together regardless of any differences of opinion. I think the players were pleased with that. As far as going forward, they haven't mentioned anything to me. I'm assuming that we'll go back to doing whatever you've done for the flag the rest of your life. I know I will. If they bring anything to my attention that they'd like to do, then I'll have that discussion with them.”

Reid said he expects the Niners to continue doing what they did last week, but like Shanahan, Reid said it isn't something that had been discussed yet. Reid has already said he intends to kneel for the national anthem moving forward after he resumed the demonstration during the preseason.

Regardless, Reid and linebacker Eli Harold, the two players who knelt alongside Kaepernick last season, hope that the focus can stay on the issues so that it will turn into more action.

"It's really important because people are focusing on the wrong things," Harold said. "They take guys' words and twist them around. It's not right, and I feel like they know what they're doing, and they're doing that to kind of flip the narrative and get people to look at something else to take their focus off of what the real issues are. I feel like it's all a setup, man.

"But like I said before, to each his own. We all have our right to our own opinions, and we'll see how it goes. I really feel like this is going to be a long, long, long journey ahead of us. This is something that could last forever. This is something that could roll over to baseball players. The NBA players are already doing it. Everyone is not brave enough to start something. That's why Colin is the most brave person I've ever seen in my lifetime for taking a knee. That's starting something."